While the current situation involving NASA’s budget and restrictions on terminating Constellation contracts is familiar to most readers here, the Orlando Sentinel lays it out in dollars and cents: NASA is forced to “waste” $1.4 million per day on Constellation contracts it can’t cancel because of a provision in the FY2010 appropriations bill, even as we approach the halfway mark of FY2011. A spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who vowed earlier this year to remove the so-called “Shelby provision” (after Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who got it included in the FY10 appropriations act), blamed “partisan politics over a broader government spending measure” for the failure to get that provision eliminated. (Republican appropriators earlier this month also said that they would seek to eliminate that provision in the next CR, but failed to do so.) NASA officials, including Administrator Bolden in a House appropriations hearing earlier this month and his associate administrators in a Senate hearing last week, have shied away from claims that the current situation has been causing them to waste money, but made it clear they’d like the language removed sooner rather than later.
In an editorial today, Florida Today calls on Congress to fund commercial crew development as the best means to limit the impending gap in US human spaceflight capabilities. The paper notes that the current situation the US finds itself in, with the US reliant on Russia for access to the station for at least several years after the shuttle’s retirement this year, is an artifact of the original implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration back in 2004, which was endorsed by Congresses with both Republican and Democratic majorities. “In the hyper-partisan climate in Congress, the announcement brought familiar criticism from Republicans that the Obama administration is ceding U.S. human spaceflight to Russia,” the editorial states, referring to the latest NASA contract for Soyuz flights. “The rhetoric accomplishes nothing, further poisoning the atmosphere when level-headed bipartisan leadership is necessary to steer NASA through the post-shuttle transition.”